Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blues For A Good Friday

The crucifixion of Christ has inspired so much art: great paintings, literature and, of course, music. But I want to talk about one song - a song that clocks in a little over thee minutes - Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark was the night, cold was the ground".

This very stark, dark piece features just one acoustic guitar (allegedly a knife was used as a slide) and a few moaned notes. With that sparse setup, Johnson sings about the great tragedy of that night when "His sweat like drops of blood ran down /In agony he prayed".

Now, those words don't actually appear in the song. In fact, Johnson's song does not contain any words at all. Those words (and the song's title) come from an old English hymn called Gethsemane, which served as the inspiration for "Dark was the night". (Wiki has more details).

The song reminds me a little of Hindustani music in its rejection of lyrics. Words can distract us from experiencing the emotion that arises from listening to a pure note or a great melody. In another way, this blues song could also be thought of as a continuation of the same line of thinking that runs through Impressionistic (or Abstract) art. By moving away from forms and shapes - the "words" of a painting - it is still possible to communicate. Besides, what words can truly express the sadness felt at the passing of that kind, decent man?

And so Johnson sings.

Dark was the night, cold was the ground. This is American blues at its finest.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Paul Simon

I'm quite enjoying the new Paul Simon song "The Afterlife" from his "So Beautiful or So What" album. An excerpt:
"Buddha and Moses and all the noses from narrow to flat, had to stand in the line, just to glimpse the divine, what you think about that?
Well it seems like our fate to suffer and wait for the knowledge we seek.
It’s all his design, no one cuts in the line, no one here likes a sneak"
With a line like "and all the noses from narrow to flat", how can I *not* buy this album? (Though I am just as impressed by the sound of the guitars on this track.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coitus Humorous

"Christian’s manroot jumped against her thigh and she imagined it a velvet-tipped iron spear. He would render her vulnerable, she would yield, then he would conquer her with his formidable weapon!" - “Desire” - Virginia Henley
There's a tumblr blog dedicated to collecting excerpts from bad romance novels and it's called, wait for it, Bad Romance Novels. (SFW)

Let it also be known that as a English Grammar and Style Nazi, I find the use of the "!" at the end of the second sentence in the excerpted passage more objectionable than the word "manroot". Just kidding. "Manroot" is easily the worst thing in that passage, followed by "velvet-tipped iron spear".

Yeah, I'm really classing up this place.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

First Sign Of Madness

I can hear the "Skype incoming call" sound everywhere. (Coincidentally, I haven't heard the phantom cellphone ring in a few months now.)

Someone's pinging me again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Any Day Now

"Standing next to me in this lonely crowd
Is a man who swears he’s not to blame
All day long I hear him shout so loud
Crying out that he was framed
I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released"

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tarkovsky, With A Polaroid Camera

Back in the 1970s, Michelangelo Antonioni gave Andrei Tarkovsky a Polaroid camera. Tarkovksy, being Tarkovsky, took some beautiful pictures. Don't at least a couple of images look like they belong in a...Tarkovsky film?

(And so kids, the moral of the story here is don't be lusting for camera gear. That won't necessarily make you a better photographer.)

(Via -->via one of Roger Ebert's tweets)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Damn, Nature, You So Strange

"Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenonemon before - but they also report that there are now less mosquitos than they would expect, given the amoungt of stagnant, standing water that is around."
This is some serious cotton candy.

OK, so which natural disasters are likely to give us cellophane flowers of yellow and green? (Never mind. I don't want to know. Ma Nature has a peculiar way of answering these questions.)